As Ominous As It Gets - You’ve seen the news of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s firing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, late on a Friday evening East Coast time. Se...
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"Like the fundamentalist Muslims, these fundamentalist Christians believe in killing civilians. They don't have any problem with it at all. They just said it! 'We'll kill their families and we'll carpet-bomb their cities.
This is the kind of insane crap that Ann Coulter used to say, to be so over-the-top, to garner attention. Right? Now, it's become mainstream and gets wild applause at a Republican debate. So, understand who you are. You're in league with the terrorists. That's what terrorists do.
Terrorists say, 'We will kill their families and we will bomb them indiscriminately.' Republicans agree."
It's hard to explain exactly why we submit ourselves to this. But in our New York City office we spend most of the day listening to Fox News. In moments of tension and incitement such as these it is difficult to capture the sheer scale and measure of the storm of hate, lies, nonsense and febrile fear that constantly flows out of it, minute by minute and hour after hour. I've become particularly focused in the last couple days on the almost constant stream of often small but highly significant falsehoods which go together to create a frightening and highly distorted image of the world.
Just now we're listening to this show "Outnumbered" where a woman named Andrea Tantaros (who manages to combine in her person in a concentrated form everything that is awful about Fox News) went on a tear about how it was that the San Bernardino shooter's brother was allowed to attend a press conference sponsored by CAIR the day after the attack, 'spouting CAIR talking points' as opposed to being in FBI custody. Why wasn't the whole family in FBI custody, she ranted? Well, as far as I know, the person she's referring to isn't Syed Farook's brother but his brother-in-law. His brother is actually a Navy veteran who lives in a different part of Southern California and, from everything we've heard, had absolutely nothing to do with his brother's crimes. ...
These might seem like small or picayune examples. But they are constant. And they build up to a whole tapestry of falsehoods, that combined with incitement and hysteria create a mental world in which Donald Trump's mounting volume of racist incitement is just not at all surprising. They are the false links that piece together the chain of distortion and lies that would simply collapse without them. You may have noticed that Fox felt compelled to suspend two on-air personalities yesterday because of rants about the President. But they were suspended not because of general tone or extremity but simply because they lapsed into profanity. When I saw this yesterday, it didn't seem surprising because the tone has become so hyperbolic and the climate of outrage and drama against the President not endorsing a military escalation or a clampdown on American Muslims so extreme that it's hardly surprising that a couple of regulars would slip into profanity.
As I wrote last night, this is sort of like a national Milgram Experiment. [Note that my post about that is here.] Are there limits on how far you can go as the possible nominee of a major national party? Seemingly not. ...
But it's not about Trump. It's about his supporters. A big chunk of the Republican base is awash in racism and xenophobic hysteria. And this is the food that they feed on every day. It's a societal sickness and we can't ignore it.
You may think of Donald Trump as a crafty blowhard intuiting the darkest recesses of the American mood and riding that wave into ever-escalating racist incitement, militant derp and extremism. But this evening it occurred to me that it may not be that at all. ... You probably know about the notorious Milgram Experiment, conducted by the late Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1961. In the experiment subjects were tested to see how far they would go in inflicting extreme pain - escalating electric shocks - on other test subjects simply because a figure in authority, the person running the experiment, told them to do so. So how far would the subjects go?
It turns out really, really far. Sometimes they'd keep inducing shocks with a chilling indifference. In other instances it would be clear that the test subject knew what he was doing was wrong. But instructed to continue, in almost every case, that's what they did. (The person on the other side of the glass wasn't really being shocked; they were pretending, but quite convincingly and often begging for mercy and expressing fear of death.)
And here we are, the experiment taken nationwide.
Intended or not, we have a grand national version of something very similar. How far will this go? Donald Trump started calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Then he called for the rushed expulsion of over 10 million residents of the United States. This was followed by proposals to create a national registry or database of American Muslims. Late last month it was the continued invocation of a lurid racist fantasy of thousands of U.S. Muslims cheering the fall of the Twin Towers from across the river in North Jersey on 9/11 — in many countries something that might be charged as racist incitement to violence. And then today, we have the culmination — or perhaps better to say, since this can't possibly be the end of it, the next massive upping of the ante — which became inevitable in the wake of everything that preceded it: Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, says Muslims as a religious class should be banned from entering the United States.
(M)otives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.
It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism. ...
...politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.
It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation. ...
What better time than during a presidential election to show, at long last, that our nation has retained its sense of decency?
Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) pre-filed a bill Tuesday that would restrict access to firearms in the same way her state restricts access to abortion.
Newman's bill includes a 72-hour waiting period for purchasing guns and watching a 30-minute video on firearms fatalities before purchasing. It also requires the firearms dealer be at least 120 miles from the purchaser's residence.
The bill would require that a gun purchaser visit an emergency room at the nearest "urban hospital" on a weekend between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. "when gun violence victims are present."
Within 72 hours of their purchase, the individual also must meet with at least two families who have been victims of firearm violence and two faith leaders who have presided over funerals in the last year of a child gun violence victim.
To wit, conservatives are extremely defensive about the Planned Parenthood shooting, but clearly see it as a political “win” if the San Bernardino shooting was rooted in Islamic terrorism. Even more bizarrely, there’s a sense, particularly in right wing circles, that the opposite is true for liberals: That we somehow have reason to be on the defense if this shooting, as it looks like it will be, is an act of Islamic terrorism. ...
We’ve been down this road before. After the Paris attacks, accusing liberals of somehow being protective of or defensive of the teachings of ISIS became a popular talking point on the right. Republicans harped endlessly on the Democratic candidates for avoiding the inexact and needlessly provocative term “radical Islam.”
It’s part point-scoring, and part projection. After all, conservative Christians continue to blindly endorse radical rhetoric and beliefs that lead to Christian terrorism of the sort that we saw at Planned Parenthood, so they assume that the “other” side has a similar problem, just with Islam instead of Christianity.
Sadly, it’s not just conservatives who make this asinine assumption, either — there’s a certain arrogant, pseudo-liberal type of atheist who also seems to think that liberals are somehow more sympathetic to or protective of Islamic terrorism than Christian terrorism. After the Paris attacks, Bill Maher, while grasping that it’s probably unwise to bomb blindly, still sneered, “It was probably not the Amish,” as if liberals were suggesting otherwise. Sam Harris went even farther, echoing Ted Cruz’s rhetoric about how Christian terrorism isn’t even really a thing, and assuming that the only reason liberals support the Syrian refugees is that we’re blind to the threat of Islamic terrorism.
This has gone on long enough. It’s time to say it straight: Just because conservatives believe there’s some kind of global battle between Christianity and Islam doesn’t mean that liberals have to agree, much less that they take the “Islam” side of that equation. On the contrary, most liberals see fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam as categorically the same and categorically illiberal in their shared opposition to feminism and modernity.
This goes double when it comes to the fringe actors in either faith who become radicalized and turn to violence to impose their theocratic views on the unwilling. Liberals understand that there are theological and political differences between the different kinds of radical fundamentalism that lead to terrorism, but we are keenly aware that people who pick up a gun in the name of God have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us.
What liberals object to is the conservative tendency to erase all distinctions between the relatively few Muslims around the world who have violent views and the majority of Muslims who, whether they are conservative or not, do not agree with ISIS or Al Qaeda’s distortion of Islam. ... Just as it’s important to maintain these distinctions when talking about Christianity, it’s equally important to keep these distinctions in mind when talking about Islam.
There’s nothing in that logic that suggests that liberals have some secret googly-eyes for demagoguing radical Muslim fundamentalists, anymore than we love Pat Robertson. On the contrary, we tend to see them as basically the same kind of misogynist, homophobic authoritarians who hide behind God to get their way. To suggest otherwise is not just dishonest, but irresponsible, since it can hinder the very diplomatic efforts we need to keep people alive.